Under-fire All Blacks coach Ian Foster praised his team and criticised the New Zealand media after a 35-23 triumph over South Africa in The Rugby Championship on Saturday in Johannesburg.
The second-round victory halted a horror run in which New Zealand lost five of six matches, including three to Ireland and one each to France and South Africa.
Some pre-match media reports claimed a second loss to the Springboks within a week would lead to Foster quitting or being sacked.
A South African columnist also labelled the visiting team “Foster’s Imposters”.
“It (media criticism) comes with the job, but it has been a pretty vicious onslaught, particularly from the New Zealand media,” Foster told reporters.
“Calling them ‘popgun selections’ I feel is quite insulting to players who are giving their all for the country. But these times are the best test of character.
“I’m intensely proud of the performance. I could not be more proud. To do that at altitude with the game swinging around—there were times we could have won and times we could have lost.
“It was 0-0 for a long time and you could feel it was a real arm-wrestle, but that is what South Africa are like here.
“You have to bide your time and we wanted to target the second half and tired legs with the way we wanted to play.”
All Blacks skipper Sam Cane has also been under constant media fire, with some questioning not only his leadership skills, but whether he deserved a starting place.
“Adversity really challenges your character and this group has got plenty of character,” said try-scorer Cane.
“There has never been a question of how much we care or how much we want it,” he added.
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said they lost for a sixth time in 15 Tests against the All Blacks at Ellis Park because they failed to reproduce the form that brought a 26-10 win last weekend.
“We did not control the game in the first half, we were not as accurate as last week. So they kept offloading, taking high-risk options, but we did not contain them.
“We did well to come back, but then they controlled the game again until the end. Generally they controlled the set-pieces and the kicking game. Our kicks were not accurate enough.”
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said “it does not feel good at all to lose, especially to our great rivals.
“We have been saying all week that the All Blacks just need one moment to click. They really imposed their game on us and they came with a lot of energy today.
“They were very good at the breakdown, they were a little more accurate than us and cleaned us out there. Especially when we were gaining momentum, they were quicker than us to get there.”